‘It’s Our Duty To Create A New Normal’: Diamond DeShields On The WNBA’s Role In The Fight For Justice

Diamond DeShields is easily one of the most exciting players in the WNBA on and off the court. Not only can she fly up and down the court with wicked speed, but she has a sweet jump shot, silky handles and great court vision — all the makings of a fast-rising star. Last season, the 6’1 guard averaged a career-high 16.2 points, 2.4 assists, and 5.5 rebounds per game which earned her All-Star honors for the first time in her career.

Following last year’s crushing defeat at the hands of the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA playoff semifinals, DeShields and the Chicago Sky have big dreams this year. With a talented core group of Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley, Cheyenne Parker and the electric DeShields, Chicago is the top dog in the East and has their eye firmly focused on the prize this year. DeShields has had some early struggles this season, but looks to be improving after scoring a season-high 14 points along with three rebounds and one steal in Saturday’s win against the Connecticut Sun.

Dime caught up with DeShields, also the newest Oakley athlete, last week to talk about the sunglasses giant’s new “For The Love of Sport” campaign, the WNBA’s role in the fight for social justice and how the Sky are staying focused in their quest for the 2020 WNBA championship.

Oakley just came out with its ‘For The Love of Sport’ campaign, revamping Bob Marley’s famous ‘One Love’ song and music video. You appear in the new video and you also co-wrote some of the lyrics. Is writing something that you enjoy doing in your free time?

I’ve always taken to music, in a way, lyrically. But the way we came up with the lyrics was actually through an interview process and some of the members from Team Oakley interviewed the athletes and then took tidbits to create the song which was really touching, and it’s really cool to see your words really be part of that creation process.

The campaign is about remembering Bob Marley, his love for sports and just trying to spread a positive message to people around the world right now. How do you think the return of sports can help people have some sense of normalcy in their lives?

It’s not about getting back to normal with the return of sports, I think it’s about creating a new normal. Obviously, we’re in the midst of not only a pandemic but a larger civil rights movement in global history. So it’s our duty as athletes to make sure we’re on the frontlines of that battle and I don’t think the old normal is something any of us want to get back to you. And so like I said as leaders and as influencers, it’s our duty to create a new normal.

The WNBA has been at the forefront of social justice issues for years, and even more so this year. The league is also unique compared to other sports leagues, with about 80 percent Black women and such a high level of thought put into every action on the social impact front. What is it like to be part of such a unified league with players that are incredibly well-spoken and outspoken about issues like police brutality and racial inequality?

First of all, it’s very special to be a member of the WNBA and it’s such an incredible group of strong, educated, powerful women. And when you talk about marginalized groups, we’re the marginalized of the marginalized. Not only are we a league of females, we’re a league of Black females and a large part are members of the LGBTQ+ community. Every day of our lives is an uphill battle, so for us to not be vocal and outspoken at a time such as this when like you said, about 80 percent of our league is directly impacted by racial injustices and racial issues, it would be doing ourselves a disservice and there’s no place for that. We’ve always been at the forefront of social justice issues; we will continue to do that and I’m just happy to be a part of a group that is as powerful and unified as the WNBA.

Obviously, every season is physically challenging in the WNBA. But this season must be particularly different from a mental standpoint — how did it feel when you were sitting at home, not knowing whether you were going to get to play basketball this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and then seeing the social justice movement take off in the U.S.?

It felt like my world had been turned upside down. My sport requires me to leave my house and go to a gym every day, and to do other things outside of just the equipment and things that I have at home. So having to adjust to working out in your living room and using YouTube workouts or Zoom workouts. And then just as the civil rights movement was spawned after the murder of George Floyd, it just broke all of our hearts and specifically it broke my heart, to be in that place emotionally. But it did spawn a bigger, larger movement and like I said, it would only be doing myself a disservice to not get out and be involved in trying to make change.

Pivoting now to the Chicago Sky, you came into 2020 with title aspirations after falling just short in the playoffs last year. You’ve started this season on good note, currently sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. In such a short and different season, how do you make sure that your focus is always there?

It’s just the same mental approach you would have even if you weren’t playing in the Wubble. You got to come into each and every game ready to execute the game plan, unified as a team. There are a lot of distractions right now and some of those distractions are just not having fans, being able to hear every single thing in the gym. The referees are hyper sensitive now because they can hear every comment and everything that’s said — typically, they wouldn’t hear those things. Living with your opponent, being next door neighbors with your opponent. There are a lot of things that can throw you off, but as long as you have the mental fortitude to push through those things and have the same approach as you would before, I think that has contributed to our success early on and will continue to contribute to our success down the road.

A lot of fans say that you have some of the coolest on-court style in the league, with your game-day uniform including a headband, sleeves, glasses and cool kicks. Is that something you enjoy being known for?

I believe if you look good and you feel good, then you play good. So every time I’m out there, I gotta make sure that I look good because if I don’t look good, then I’m not going to feel good and if I don’t feel good, then I might not play good. I just try to go out there and do what makes me feel comfortable, without doing too much!